Once a year, Lake Forest has a literal Dining Celebration! On “Taste of Lake Forest” day, restaurants from around the city set up shop at the Foothill Ranch Towne Center to showcase their wares. For a single reasonably-priced ticket, only $10 per person, you can enjoy tasty bites from vendors you might want to put on your short list of eateries to visit.  It’s a great chance to enjoy the outdoors, visit with friends, and discover new restaurants.  For the rest of the year, you’ll enjoy endless combinations of dining styles and ethnic offerings.

2017 Taste of Lake Forest is Sunday,  September 24 from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM at the Foothill Ranch Towne Centre (Bake Parkway and Town Centre Drive)

When you’re looking for a quick bite in Lake Forest, There are lots of choices for simple fare at decent prices in a nice, simply decorated spot for lunch or dinner. Many of these have outdoor dining areas and kids menus as well.

The Habit Burger Grill — Wahoo’s Fish Tacos — Bagels & Brew — California Fish Grill – Yogi’s — Chipotle Mexican Grill — The Corner Bakery — Pei Wei Asian Diner – Subway — Mimi’s Café — Panera Bread – Luna Grill – Mustard Café

Treat family, friends, or business associates. When you’re looking to impress, with both atmosphere and cuisine, there are many choices to consider.

Brü Grill & Market – The newest addition to fine dining options in Lake Forest boasts a lush, rustic décor with a modern flair. Fresh baked flatbreads are a specialty, and the rest of the eclectic menu is sure to please.  Check out the right-priced happy hour appetizer offerings – and give some serious thought to the best lavender lemon drop martini ever.

Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ – Dine inside Grandma’s Southern kitchen, her screened-in back porch, or the amazingly large covered front porch. Southern fare in large portions in a quaint but ample setting.  They will start you off with biscuits and apple butter and ice water in a mason jar while you study the menu to try and decide which of dozens of Southern specialties you long for the most. Consider getting at least one order of the grilled artichoke with balsamic vinegar reduction sauce for the table to share.

Peppino’s Original – A large framed wedding photo of owner Mr. Joe and his wife set the tone for this Lake Forest dining tradition. Think of your favorite Italian dish and you’ll find it done right in this place. Seating is a bit close together, but somehow it’s all right, and actually kind of homey. For many families in Lake Forest, this place is a multi-generational tradition.

Peppino’s Foothill – The newer Peppino’s location offers the same great food in a larger and more modern venue. There is cozy indoor seating, but most people come for the expansive outdoor seating area in front. The restaurant is at one end of the Foothill Center Food Court—the opposite end from Regal Cinemas. Find a parking place in between and make an evening of it—with or without the kids. By the way, if you just can’t get enough of Peppino’s, there is a third location just over the hill, right on the banks of Mission Viejo Lake that you’ll want to get to just before sunset.

Piccolino Ristorante Pizzeria – Don’t be fooled by the name. This is a full-on upscale restaurant with authentic Italian cuisine that is several cuts above excellent. The lasagna, of course, is perfection, and the seafood items are remarkable.

King’s Fish House – It’s just on the other side of I-5, so technically it’s in Laguna Hills, but as of now Lake Forest is claiming it.  Whether you choose the casual side, the formal side, or one of the outdoor seating sections, the ambiance is lovely and the food is superb. The daily menu offers an extensive selection of fish and seafood, including fresh oysters on the half shell, whole lobster, and Alaskan King Crab. During lobster season, there are several weeks when you can enjoy a lobster dinner and come back for another at half price.

Rose Canyon Cantina and Grill – This is simply a must-see place. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped out of OC and into, well, someplace else. It’s a tiny bit north of the Lake Forest’s northern border, but that drive from the moment you turn right off El Toro Road until you arrive at Rose’s, is magical. Majestic live oak trees line the road on either side and meet overhead until you arrive at the creek at the bottom of the canyon. A large bank of windows across the back of the restaurant looks out at a large outdoor courtyard shaded by another massive live oak tree. Quality of service and food are both a little inconsistent, but if it happens to be an unlucky night, just look out the window! Or stroll out back and listen to what one online reviewer called, “the Zen sound of the canyon.” The back courtyard is dog-friendly, there is a Sunday brunch, and they are closed on Mondays.

When it’s all about the food. If you are more in the mood for great food than for elegant surroundings, Lake Forest is filled with “diamonds in the rough” that many people would pass by without even noticing. Or these little gems are tucked away in corners of the city where you wouldn’t have occasion to pass by: you have to know they are there and go seek them out. Many of them are family-owned establishments, and this personal ownership shows in the quality of their offerings.

Tutto Famiglia – Tucked off on a side road where you would never notice it, this family-owned restaurant serves some of the best Italian food in Orange County. It is small but quaint, and when you’ve experienced the cuisine that doesn’t matter anyway. You might want to call and find out when Chef Noel will be making his amazing Oso Buco.

La Cocina de Ricardo – One online reviewer calls this the “perfect hole-in-the-wall,” which pretty much describes the outside of this family owned spot. Inside, however, you’ll start off with perfect chips and salsa, and select from a wide variety of perfectly prepared Mexican dishes, including authentic chile relleno, and absolutely scrumptious pork and chile verde.

Tasty Thai – You’ll find this place located in a small strip mall and looking like nothing special. The tables and benches are mismatched and rickety. But when the food arrives, you forget all that. It is Thai food at it’s very best, presented with edible garnishes cut into flower shapes, and unforgettable dishes and sauces.

Inka Mamas – This family owned “storefront” restaurant has a basic and somewhat small interior, but the friendly staff serves fresh, authentic Peruvian food.

Din Ho – Not only is there usually a slight wait at dinner time, but there is always a steady stream of takeout customers. All your favorite Chinese dishes, and several specialties of the house, are cooked to perfection. Once you become a regular, don’t be surprised when you are offered soup or salad “on the house.”

Jin Japanese – The best sushi in town, but the outside is dreadful—you need to know that up front. Once you get in the door, though, the décor is tasteful and comfortable, though a little too much sports-bar-ish for some. The real point is the sushi. The selection, freshness, and presentation will meet the expectations of the most discriminating sushi expert.

Natraj’s Tandoori – Service at the counter with several vegetarian, and or gluten-free, and-or dairy-free offerings. Dine inside or outside in the food court where you can people watch to your heart’s delight.

Nina’s Indian & British Groceries – Another great choice for authentic Indian food. Check out the grocery store with products from around the world.

Café Matinee – The quiet, unpretentious atmosphere is misleading in this family-owned Lebanese café. Customers return again and again for the homemade hummus and friendly service.

Empanada Man – Unique pizzas and other dishes are offered, but what you’ll probably go back again and again for are the perfect Argentinean empanadas. You should know up front what one online reviewer advised: “go for food, not for the ambiance.” And, a related tip, you can get the empanadas “take and bake” style.

DiHo Siam – Half the menu is Thai, and the other half Chinese. Offerings on both sides are all excellent. The Tom Yum soup is perfect, and you really should try the Angel Wings entrée.

Hang out with friends.

Rudy’s Pub and Grill – This nicely appointed sports bar has video screens galore, a super happy hour, and great food. They just moved from another nearby location, and the new one is just as great as the old one, but you may want to call ahead because as of now they still do not have a liquor license for the new location.

Sammy’s Original – This upscale, well-lit sports bar features a New York deli style menu, with generous portions, and offsite track betting on horse races.

Heros & Legends – It’s located in a strip mall, the atmosphere is lively, peanuts on the floor and awesome hand crafted beer menu, the service is excellent, and the food is fantastic.

Buffalo Wild Wings – for the young and the young at heart, this is a great place spend time with friends, watch a game or not, and basically have a good time. There are tons of choices for wings, of course, as well as veggie sticks and garlic fries.


Brizios Pizza – Their crust is awesome… thin or thick, staff is super nice. You can’t go wrong and they do great fund raisers for the local schools.

Pizza Studio – Again, great assortment of crusts and toppings.  You get to pick and choose exactly how you want it… kinda like a “Chipotle” but for Pizza’s.

When time is of the essence.

When the family (or you!) just needs to be fed—home from the soccer game, or home from the beach—all the regulars are close at hand (no need for explanations here):  Jimmy John’s, Panda Express, McDonald’s, Jack-in-the-Box, Del Taco, and Taco Bell. Special mention needs to be made of In-N-Out (well, one note here: the best burger in California). Or, for something “drive-thru” but more like a meal, each of these is a good bet: Panera, The Hat, El Pollo Loco, KFC, and Arby’s.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little taste tour of Lake Forest.

Which of these restaurants are your favs? Leave a comment below to tell us your favorites….

Jackie Barikhan and Right Choice Mortgage are pleased to be a part of Lake Forest and the Orange County Community. Remember us for all of your home financing and real estate needs.       Call or text us at 949 600-0944 when you have questions about home loans or interest rates. We’d love to help you get the best home loan when you are ready to buy or refinance a home in Lake Forest or surrounding areas.